When a lawmaker retires, he hopes that voters and reporters will take a look back at all his legislative achievements. But poor David Wu--his signature accomplishment might be getting re-elected despite increasingly weird and unsavory behavior. Wu said he'd resign from Congress Tuesday after House Democrats urged an investigation into allegations that he engaged in "unwanted sexual behavior" with the teen daughter of a friend.
But that incident, reported Friday, was just the first in a string of questionable episodes which caused his staff to resign after confronting him in what sounds a lot like an intervention, staged with his psychiatrist just before the 2010 midterm elections.
What happened to David Wu? After growing up as an overachiever--he attended Stanford, Harvard, and Yale--and becoming the first Chinese-American elected to Congress, he's leaving office as the butt of infinite Internet jokes. But looking back at past behavior, a pattern emerges.
Summer 1976: Wu's ex-girlfriend at Stanford accuses him of trying to force her to have sex. Initially, Wu claimed it was consensual, telling police, "I was with my girlfriend, and we just got a little carried away," according to the officer's memory. The woman declined to press charges.
August 1998: After months of friction with Wu, his campaign manager quits upon hearing rumor of the assault, later calling it "a very small, but final, straw that broke the camel's back."
October 2004: The Oregonian brings the Stanford incident to light. Wu issues a statement reversing his original position, calling the incident "inexcusable behavior on my part," and explaining, "As a 21-year-old, I hurt someone I cared very much about. I take full responsibility for my actions and I am very sorry... This single event forever changed my life and the person that I have become."
Update: A reader alerts that on February 19, 2010, Wu totaled a rental car after smashing into a parked Ford Focus near Portland, the Willamette Week reported. According to public records, the Focus' owner told the 911 operator, "I'm assuming that there's some kind of disability, if he was driving on the wrong side of the street... He says he fell asleep. I don't believe him."
October 27, 2010: Wu gives a loud, angry speech, causing a member of the Washington County Democratic Party member to complain formally.
October 29, 2010: A traveler files a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration after Wu manages to convince a TSA employee let him into a restricted area of the Portland airport to try to convince de-planing passengers to vote for him. The outburst was followed two days later by an episode at Portland International Airport, where Wu used his influence as a member of Congress to enter a restricted area and campaign for votes from off-loading passengers.
Wee hours of October 30, 2010: Female staffers receive several strange emails written from Wu's private address but signed by his teenage children. One urged, "Cut him some slack, man. What he does when he's wasted is send emails, not harass people he works with." Another said, "My Dad says you're the best because not even my Mom put up with him for [REDACTED: #] years and you have. We think you're cool." Another was the infamous photo of Wu dressed in a Tiger suit. His aides believe all the messages were sent by Wu himself from his BlackBerry.
(Photo via Willamette Week/Associated Press.)
October 30, 2010: Wu's staff confronts him about his erratic behavior over the four previous days, bringing his psychiatrist into the meeting. His pollster had emailed staffers earlier that day, saying, "This is way beyond acceptable levels and the charade needs to end NOW... No enabling by any potential enablers, he needs help and you need to be protected. Nothing else matters right now. Nothing else." But Wu wouldn't listen to his aides' appeals, and told them he was leaving to go see a movie.
February 23, 2011: Wu apologizes on Good Morning America for sending the tiger photo. "I think a take home lesson from this is that while [the photos] were very, very unprofessional you shouldn't ever send photographs of yourself in a Halloween costume, something you intend to wear to a private party a couple nights later," Wu admitted. "It's just not professional even when you're joshing around with your kids a couple nights before Halloween. I did send those photographs, it was unprofessional and inappropriate."
Hours later on February 23, 2011: Wu admits to the Oregonian that he took oxycontin from a campaign donor for neck pain. "The donor offered me an alternative painkiller, and I took two tablets. This was the only time that this has ever happened... I recognize that my action showed poor judgment at the time, and I sincerely regret having put my staff in a difficult position."
July 22, 2011: The Oregonian reports a woman, 18, left distraught voicemails at Wu's congressional office "accusing him of an unwanted sexual encounter." She was the daughter of Wu's high school friend, and initially, Wu told aides the incident was consensual and the newspaper only that: "This is very serious, and I have absolutely no desire to bring unwanted publicity, attention, or stress to a young woman and her family."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.